It’s been a steep learning curve for our family as we’ve grappled with disability and where it falls in the realm of God’s plan. The theme that has come to us over and over as we’ve wrestled with the Word is the subtitle of this book: How God Uses Our Brokenness To Display His Grace.
It’s a message that’s completely foreign to our society where the strong and self-reliant win admiration. This book has had a tremendous impact on the my thoughts regarding disability and the use God has for them in the Church. Disability and the Gospel is written by Michael S. Beates, a careful articulate man who approaches the subject with academic precision and personal compulsion. His own daughter Jessica, a 30 year-old woman, is profoundly disabled. This has prompted his research and careful study of disability and how it falls in with the gospel.
Most of you will probably never read this book so let me give you the “Cliff Notes”. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have either before God brought Calvin to us. This book challenges the way the church has treated the disabled for centuries and urges us to pick up a biblical view of God’s plan for the disabled.
I had a high-lighting craze while reading this and quite literally jumped up and preached parts of the book to Darryl. Man, it put a fire in my soul. When truth is articulated that you’ve been scratching around at, it is tremendously affirming and freeing. I’m going to extend the To-Go version to a couple of posts. Let me summarize some key thoughts here.
1. The Christian church is floundering in its understanding of disability. Most churches are void of people with disabilities and if they are there they are usually segregated from regular fellowship. Why? Christians generally don’t understand God’s role in disability and this lack of understanding leads to closed doors for the disabled and missed opportunity for the Church. David’s relationship with Mephibosheth is an example of how God’s people are called to identify with the disabled.
2. God’s takes ownership for the disabled and blesses them and others through their weakness. Exodus 4:11 “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” In the OT there is a pattern of God showing favor to the broken, the weak, and the outcast. These are the ones he uses precisely in their weakness so that His glory may be displayed more fully.
3. Physical brokenness is to remind humanity of our devastating soul-brokenness. “The spiritual gift of presence in weakness by those with disabilities is the strength they bring to the church.” Most of us want to see ourselves as put together, self-reliant, whole people. Seeing disabled people should remind us of the effects of sin and our universal brokenness and need. When God wrestled with Jacob he left him with a physical wound which would remind Jacob of his spiritual brokenness and dependence on God. “He could no longer feign moral strength as he limped through life with this new physical disability.”
4. When we are broken and aware of our weaknesses we are useful to God. Two examples: Samson (blind and broken when God used him to judge the Philistines), David (a boy-shepherd too small and weak to wear armor chosen by God to show his power). When conditions are good in our life we tend to forget God or even reject him. But God meets people in the quiet desolation of their souls, when they are empty and realize they need him desperately.
Quotables from Part 1:
The brokenness of lifelong disability leaves many people in a state of what some have called “chronic sorrow.” And too often, the Christian church in the West communicates to people that sorrow and brokenness are conditions we expect people to overcome and conquer. But the hard truth is some of us, by God’s difficult providence, find ourselves facing brokenness day in and day out with no prospect of significant change.
This one made me jump up and say, yes! This has been a painful awareness for us:
God will take our dreams–too often limited to security, pleasure, or assurance of comfort–and he will shatter them until we have nothing left but God alone. Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we need God more than the blessings of life. And that begins the revolution in our lives.
We often sing in church that the highest thing is to know God. But too often we say this with our lips, and live as if we depend not on him but on ourselves and all our earthly comforts
Wisdom, strength, and wealth should not be the object of our boasting. A knowledge and understanding of God, of him alone, is the highest thing.
Are you challenged, curious? I hope so, I’m absolutely pumped by this discussion. Catching a glimpse of God’s plan for the broken applies not only because of Calvin but because I’M broken, just in ways you can’t see. And our God is never one to shy away from weakness. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Wow, this is radical truth!!!
Part 2 coming soon.